Basic plumbing tools are “must haves” if you’re a homeowner, and a good idea if you’re renting. Generally, a small leak or other small plumbing problem can be fixed by just about anyone … and probably fixed with only the basic plumbing tools before your plumber even returns your call.
Before making that call, sit back and take a breath.
Major household plumbing repairs, such as water heater leaks, broken pipes and septic issues may need a professional or specialty plumbing tools, but the majority of home plumbing fixes—drips, clogs andleaks—can be accomplished by the average adult using simple basic plumbing tools.
Nearly everyone who lives in a house or apartment will, at some time, run into some sort of plumbing experience. And, virtually all are things we dread. With some plumbing basics and a little knowledge of the system, however, even the novice can make it a positive experience. Its a great feeling to fix a problem, with one of these basic plumbing tools, yourself!
The plumbing system is pretty simple; Clean water—under pressure—comes into your home, goes to all the things that use water, then exits—by gravity—to the sewer or septic system. The image (left) shows the purpose of a p-trap, an ingenious system that keeps those smelly ol’ gasses from entering your home! A similar system is built into every toilet. Each time you turn on the water (or flush) you replace the water in the “trap.” Very clever.
Leaks and drips happen in both systems (called “supply” and “drain”) and clogs in only the drain system. Leaks and drips are fixed by tightening fittings, replacing pipes and/or fittings or working on the outside of the pipes, clogs are inside pipes and remedied by chemicals or clean-out tools, like drain snakes and plungers.
Below is a list of basic plumbing tools that the average homeowner can afford, easily work with and will fix leaks, drips and clogs … which are the vast majority of the problems. Tools designed for major operations—like taking out the driveway and rerouting the drain system—can be had at a plumbing tool rental, but for simple projects, like replacing that old sink, and simple plumbing repairs and maintenance, try your basic plumbing tools first.
Whether you use a professional plumber from time to time or plan to do the work yourself, you’ll still want to have the following basic tools on hand:
BASIC TOOLS HOMEOWNERS NEED:
TONGUE & GROOVE PLIERS: Also called Channellock or parrot-nosed, are used for almost everything! Get both 10 inch and 12 inch, as you’ll find you’ll need both for so many jobs. Wrap each jaw of one with two layers of duct tape to tighten chrome pipe fittings.
PIPE WRENCH: Large, heavy and a tool you should also get two of. Get a 10 inch and a 14 inch. These are killers when it comes to loosening large, threaded pipes. But, watch out. This tool is not for chrome or other finished fixtures.
CRESCENT WRENCH: This is really the workhorse of wrenches. Also called an “adjustable spanner” this tool comes in handy whether you’re working on your plumbing, your furnace or your car! Modern ones have digital read-outs, self adjusting jaws and “feelers” to gauge the precise size of the nut or bolt. This is absolutely basic to your basic plumbing tools!
HACKSAW: This tool is the one you’ll need to cut nearly everything, including metal pipe, plastic pipe, screws and bolts. Keep the blade tightened with the wing nut on the tool. You can also use the blade alone with a rag wrapped around one end to cut in tight spaces. This is also theonly tool you need working with PVC. Have spare blades on hand.
METAL FILE: To remove metal burrs and smooth the cuts on metal pipes. If your system is PVC (plastic) get a small round file. You should probably have three or four different files anyway.
BASIN WRENCH: This one ingenious tool extends your reach and allows you to tighten and loosen the nuts holding the fixtures (faucets) way up there under the sink in that narrow gap between the underside of the sink and the wall, which most adult men can’t get their hand into. Great tool.
PLUMBER’S PIPE CLEANER: Get a combination 1/2″—3/4″ to clean and prepare the insides (and outsides) of supply pipes.
TEFLON PLUMBERS TAPE: This tape wraps threads on metal connectors and fittings to create a water tight seal. Always wrap the threads in a clockwise fashion, as that’s the way the fitting will screw on.
ABRASIVE CLOTH: Not really one of the basic plumbing tools, but pick up a roll anyway. Like sandpaper, only much more pliable and long lasting. Used to clean and deburr all types of cut edges on pipes.
TOOLS FOR COPPER PIPE:
PROPANE TORCH: ONLY if you have copper pipes. And, only if you want to learn how (or know how) to sweat fit pipes to fittings using solder. If you know how to solder, this is the only plumbing quick tip you’ll need: wad up a piece of bread (yes, bread) and stuff it a foot or so into the pipe before heating the pipe for solder. The bread keeps water from trickling down to the area you’re working on (even a few drops will sabotage your soldering) and will be flushed out when the water is turned back on.
SILVER PLUMBING SOLDER Comes in a roll. Sometimes is sold with flux, and some are made to work without flux.
PLUMBER’S FLUX AND BRUSH Used to draw the solder into the joint. Applied just before soldering.
TUBING CUTTER: This is a quick and clean way to cut copper pipes leaving a smooth edge when you’re through. Looks like a “C” clamp with sharp disks. Get the close-quarter one. It is slightly harder to operate than the regular cutter, but works in tight areas the other can’t fit into. Or, of course, buy both.
TOOLS FOR CLOGS:
PLUNGER: If you don’t have one of these, you’re asking for it! Used for decades to unclog toilets and sinks, this is one item you should keep in or close to the bathroom. Many come with a plastic plunger holder, which is astorage device designed to hold the plunger and contain the drips in an “attractive” way. For years I stored mine in a small plastic trash bag in the linen closet.
HAND AUGER: A drain clearing tool, sometimes called a “drain snake”, which is fed into the drain and cranked so that the flexible metal cable twists and turns to free clogs and obstructions. These are made in a LOT of styles and iterations. A 6′ or 8′ tool is all you’ll need for most snakingjobs.
You can purchase ALL the basic plumbing tools for around a hundred dollars, and over the course of your life you’ll get many times more than that out of them! In fact, the entire collection is cheaper than a visit from your friendly plumber. And the satisfaction you’ll get out of a successful plumbing fix or remodel cannot be expressed in mere terms of money.
If you’re considering doing your own plumbing, you really should check out MyOnlinePlumber.com. This is an informative and well organized website with free help and professional answers to your plumbing questions!
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